Back on the 26th August, BBC released the first episode to its highly ambitious, expensively produced original, Bodyguard. As well as achieving the highest viewing figures for a new BBC drama that day, Bodyguard boasts an impressively aligned cast with an adrenaline fuelled story split across 6 parts. The much discussed Bodyguard is a defining series for the BBC; an attempt to show they can still compete with the best producers of television in this digital streaming age. Unfortunately for Bodyguard, the show runs out of steam late on, slowing the pace and falling into clichéd territory, undoing some of the excellent early work.
The first 20 minutes of Bodyguard are arguably the best in any TV drama released this year. Dripping in tension, a memorable segment on board a train is enough to set the mood and tone for the rest of the series to follow. For the first 3 episodes at least, Bodyguard maintains this level of adrenaline-fuelled action and tension. The second half of the show sees the action fall by the wayside, exposing a much more archetypal investigative drama with a political conspiracy at its heart. Although Bodyguard does wrap up most of its big plot threads in a neat Hollywood-esque bow with its formulaic finale, it also feels like a bit of a missed opportunity given the excellent start this show had. To say the finale was disappointing is an understatement; it’s another example of why reviewers need to be looking at reviewing an entire product, not 1 or 2 episodes of a show.
Best known for his role as Robb Stark in Game Of Thrones, Richard Madden does a pretty good job as the emotionally damaged David Budd whom the show revolves around. From the expressionless glances to maintain his professionalism on the job to moments of weakness when no-one else is watching, you really get the feeling David is an emotionally torn individual. Although his opposite number, Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), does well to balance his character out and bring an interesting dynamic between the two, a shocking plot twist at the end of the third episode shifts the focus back to David in his renewed crusade for vengeance. It’s here where Bodyguard loses some of its uniqueness, taking its foot off the gas as the action ceases and the tone of the show changes to a more methodically paced politically charged drama.
Although these segments could easily be compelling and engrossing to watch, a lack of empathy toward Home Secretary Montague destroys the credibility of these scenes. We’re shown multiple times she’s looking out for herself and only has her own professional interests to heart so seeing David Budd succumb to her web of deceit and launch his crusade for justice late on in her name makes it difficult to really care about what’s going on. That’s before mentioning how unrealistic some of these later scenes are, especially the unremarkable finale. Still, because of how realistically depicted and relatable his character is, David does just enough to keep us watching through these slower moments despite an indifference to whether he succeeds with catching the men or women responsible.
When people look back at Bodyguard it’s not likely to be the romance, the politics or even the overarching story that people remember. All of these fall into the usual BBC drama trap of playing out in predictable, clichéd ways. What’s really impressive about this series are the breathtaking action-packed set pieces. It’s here where Bodyguard really deserves its plaudits and some of these scenes are among the best seen in TV this year. There’s enough hype and drama built around Bodyguard to make it one of the more memorable series of the year but it’s also a perfect example of why episodic reviews can be a misleading guide to the overall quality of a show.
There’s no denying Bodyguard started well, with some excellent action and drama in its opening 3 episodes, but the final 3 stick more closely to the archetypal drama you’d expect from the BBC; a stark reminder that Bodyguard is a bit of a missed opportunity given the promising start the series had.